Legal Ethics

Now we are six: the quest for ethical certainty in an uncertain legal world.(Editorial)(Essay)

As Legal Ethics enters its seventh year, Brad Wendel, in his "inaugural" editorial as Book Reviews Editor, offers us a timely reminder of our mission. This, he suggests, is to pose three challenges to legal ethics' scholarship: to define the domain of legal ethics; to study the subject from a perspective that has validity across jurisdictions, and to incorporate the insights of related fields into the domain. Over the years we have been pleased to publish papers that have brought local, comparative and global perspectives to respond to these challenges, and this "tradition" is well maintained by the current issue which, with contributions from Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, the USA and the UK, also counts as one of our most international to date.

In this issue our contributors confront some of the diverse contexts of contemporary legal practice and the crisis of confidence in public ideals and professional duty that threaten the service ideal at all levels of legal work, from the judiciary down to voluntary legal advisors. The link between these contributions is a concern with the perennial question, what is the role of the individual lawyer, and of the legal profession, in a changing world? As lawyers we are faced with an environment ruled, as Wendel also observes, by a polycentric and complex regulatory system, an environment where traditional professional bearings are either totally absent or rapidly being replaced by new values that may even purport to legitimate corrupt practices. In these "ethical deserts" it is often difficult to distinguish mirage from reality and even harder to find true sustenance or a sense of direction.

One response of lawyers--and increasing numbers of law schools (1)--concerned to find professional "balance" is to support charity or, as it is known in legal circles, pro bono, as a counterweight to the emphasis on more profitable, often commercial work and clients. Supporting the arts or the community through sponsorship is yet another way in which larger firms put something back into the public arena while also demonstrating civic virtue. …

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